T Nation

Gaining Fat Not Muscle When I Bulk


28 Male, 170lbs, 5’11, scale reads 12% BF(i know this is probably not accurate)

i have been seriously lifting for 6 years as in tracking lifts and macros etc. i consider myself in good shape but not the shape i feel my effort and duration to this hobby should reflect. I am naturally skinny with small wrists and ankles however i feel like when i bulk to try to gain more muscle i carry all my weight in my lower stomach looking like I’m extremely bloated and have a pot belly.

Current Diet:3,100Cals 426Carb 69Fat 194Protein
M-chest/back abs
W-off(20 MIN HIIT)abs
S-Bi Tri
Sunday-Off (20min HIIT)abs

My training style is focused on hypertrophy and strength. I start my workouts with compound movements working in the 6-8 rep range for 4 sets. as I go to the successive sets of different exercises i work in the 10-12 rep range with shorter rest times. ex-for mondays workout i do incline barbell bench press 4sets 6-8 reps, then do flat dumbbell bench press for 8-10 and so on. as the workout goes on the reps go up. I’m really focusing on tracking my compound lifts and applying progressive overload to them but the increases are VERY small and i feel so tired and weak during my workouts hence why i initiated a bulk thinking it would help my lifts go up and put on muscle. I take weekly photos of myself and all i notice is a bigger pot belly not muscle. I have been bulking for 7 weeks now and i am up from 161-170 so i think my calorie intake is pretty inline? not to aggressive…

In summary, i need some help/advice on diet or training on how to better approach my goals. Id like to be at 175-180 at 10% BF.


Change up your macros -426g of carbs is a lot.
Basically drop carbs right back to say 250 and up good fats maybe up protein tiniest bit also. Can keep overall calories the same. Try for couple weeks then evaluate.

Re training look up the kingbeef thread for better splits


Try intermittent fasting. In other words, try taking 1-2 days per week where you skip a meal or two.


I was on kinobodys program for a year. Ate 12-8 everyday. Just felt more bloated on that and I train early in the morning so it’s difficult to not eat hours after a intense lifting session.

I’ll try lowering my carbs could be holding lots of water. On my off days I reduce intake and carbs significantly I forgot to mention which normally drops 2-3lbs the next morning weigh in which is mostly water I’m assuming.


disagree on upping protein. He’s already eating more than enough protein for his size.

Raise fat, lower carbs.

A couple other things: how clean is your diet? You don’t HAVE to eat perfectly clean, but if your diet is very ‘dirty’, it could explain things. Also, do you drink alcohol?

If you don’t drink alcohol, and your diet is very clean, you could also consider getting blood work done to ensure that your hormones are within range, specifically Testosterone, Estrogen, and thyroid hormones. A lot of people have thyroid issues today, largely because sea salt is so prevalent. If you’re cooking at home mostly, and you use sea salt instead of iodized salt, this would be a problem.


@flipcollar I prepare all my meals for the week on sunday and really try watch my sodium intake. If i drink its very litte on saturdays and its clear vodka with carbonated water not a drop on weekdays. I have been thinking of getting blood work done for awhile as i just cant seem to narrow down what the problem is as diet and training seem to in check.

I have adjusted my macros as follows, thoughts?

3,200 total calories


I think that macro breakdown is a bit high on protein for your size, but it should still work. It’s a better macro breakdown than what you had before for sure.

My thought about the sodium is that you could be iodine-deficient. That’s why I mentioned it. Iodine deficiency leads to thyroid problems, which leads to poor body composition. Sea salt does not have iodine, whereas iodized salt obviously does.


Post exactly what you ate today.

Not what you think we want to read or what you "usually " eat.



note 8:45am meal is post workout. the only thing i change is i swap turkey and chicken for lunches (12pm meal).

On off days here my diary: I do IF on off days and drop calories as you can see…this is exactly what i eat not for show


taken today

  1. pull up your pants. we don’t need to see your shorts that low.

  2. I feel like some perspective would be helpful at this point… you’re not exactly fat right now. Were you previously leaner?

Also, can you quantify your strength gains over the last 7 weeks? I’m wondering if maybe your expectations for muscular growth may be out of line, particularly on a ‘program’ like this. You’re hitting your triceps 4 times a week. That doesn’t seem optimal. 4 triceps days, and then 1 day for your entire lower body? lol. I’m guessing you programmed this yourself. There’s no way you’re properly recovering AND working out with the necessary intensity to grow. You’re likely only doing 1 or the other. Possible neither.

And as a side note, you eat more than me and I weigh a very lean 200 lbs. I’m not saying you should eat less, but you are gaining more than 1 lbs per week. You can’t expect that all to be muscle.

So, to summarize, I’m making the following suggestions: Pick a better program, written by someone who is not you, and either accept a little bit of fat gain, or cut calories.


thanks for the feedback. I have taken bits and pieces from multiple programs. Are you counting chest as Triceps to get 4days? I directly work each muscle group twice a week allowing for 48hrs of recovery. Can you recommend a program for me? new to this forum and how to search for well designed programs. I have followed Mike Matthews (muscleforlife) bigger leaner stronger before as well.


and yes i was leaner before. I normally hover around 162. this is the heaviest i have been and like i said i feel like its all in my gut/chest.

progression in lifts:
my squat is up from 235 5 rep max to 270
incline barbell has stayed the same for months at 5 reps of 225
standing barbell press is up to from 100 to 135 for 5 reps
barbell curl has stayed the same for months at 5 reps 125lbs
close grip bench press has stayed the same for months at 5 reps of 225

those are my main lifts that i track on a app on my phone


You’re not fat; you’re just not very muscular. If you have gained an appreciable amount of fat recently then you must have been very underweight before.

Lower your carbs a bit and up your fats like Flip said, and just keep on keeping on. Try not to psyche yourself out of staying the course. Your body is supposed to be changing from all of this so don’t get scared when it happens.

And remember: losing fat is easy - gaining muscle is hard.


This leads me to believe you aren’t taking any measurements to track fat gain.

…are you not taking any measurements to track fat gain? If not, you can’t really know if you are or are not only adding fat.


your fat distribution seems relatively even and usual, from what I can see. I wouldn’t worry about that.

Your numbers are mostly moving in the right direction. Here’s something to consider: yes, i included chest when I said you’re doing triceps 4 times a week. Your squat and your curl have gone up considerably. Those are movements that you’re practicing once per week. You’re pressing twice and week and working your triceps 4 times per week in total. And your movements that largely involve the triceps are stagnant. This comfirms the idea that you need to change your programming.


Pretty bad advice to immediately alter macros so dramatically, in my opinion. Google “barbell medicine to be a beast” article and read that, re: macros.

Idea is to have a macro balance that fuels training and allows you to gain weight slowly. 3,100 kcal is too high, based on your bodyweight and the fact you’re gaining 1 lb / week.


350g carbs
190g protein
85g fat


^that’s the closest macro breakdown to what I would recommend that I’ve seen to this point. Pretty much on point.


hehehehe, a funny bulking thing I read that might help you…

Cuz’ I’m bulkin’!

I love to “bulk”, because it’s the best way,
To pack on the pounds, and justify eatin’ all day,
To put on much mass, and polish away all the grub,
And eat by the bucket-full – and just eat by the tub!

I’ll have me my pasta, and French-fries and shakes,
Made with real whole milk, plus some cookies Drakes,
Then I’ll eat up some burgers, and maybe some bars,
Like Snickers and Milk-Way, and my favorite - Mars!

I love to snack and gorge, and put away all the food,
Cuz’ each meal has the calories, so you know it’s all good,
And when I’m done here, whether the time’s nine or ten,
I’ll simply keep dreaming of eating again!

I started my bulking, around the start of September,
It’s been three months now, and I’m already feeling much better,
With each and every passing lunch and buffet,
I’m eating remorselessly, all night and all day!

I’m seeing the scale weight reach new all time highs,
I’m seeing the new mass, though mostly in my ass and my thighs,
I’m also getting stronger, on each and every lift,
Cuz’ I’m in a perpetual all-you-can-eat shift!

I see my chest getting bigger, with each passing day,
As I watch my abs, vanish further and further away,
I also watched my waistline grow, by leaps and by bounds,
In every direction, forming large clumps and mounds!

What is most important, is that I’m making a new me,
With every Double Whopper, and bucket of KFC,
And with my dessert, both with pies and cake,
I’ll soon be so huge, and the earth beneath me shall quake!

I’ve followed the right program, used by most the pros,
In order to build mass, from my head to my toes,
I’m eating the fried foods, and the ham and salami,
So that I can grow huge, just like King Kamali!

I read how Lee Priest, eats pizza and candy,
To get those huge arms, that are so giant and veiny,
So I watched my arms grow, much larger and round,
But they look much less defined, and more like a mound!

I feel very sorry, for all those skinny-lean losers,
Who just eat so clean, yet are so afraid of accusers,
Who say they don’t look like that they even train,
Cuz’ they eat their egg whites completely in vain!

I’m not some pretty boy loser, so I eat real hardcore,
And even though I look smoother, I’m now weighing much more,
I’m trying to become bigger, and that means just one thing,
It’s time for my steak bomb and French-fried onion rings!

They think that they look good, because they got the abs,
But I got the mass, even if most is just flab,
They say that I could be doing myself some harm,
But I think they’re just jealous – of my big swollen forearms!

My shirt is double-extra large, their arms look like tubes,
And even though I don’t have pecs, at least I got two boobs,
I avoid chicken breasts, to me that’s a physique wrecker,
So I fry my food, and as a result I can’t see my own pecker!

But now it’s around April, and I’m feelin’ real large,
The time has arrived, to step forward and take charge,
So I’m still with the bulkin’, and for a very good reason,
So I can look huuugggeee, come the warmer beach season!

On the first real warm day, and as result of my bulkin’ rate,
I put on my tank top, cuz’ I think I look great,
And I went out for walk, because the weather looked blessed,
But just five minutes later, I feel like I’m going to have cardiac arrest!

I can’t take one step further, without breaking a sweat,
I can’t climb the up the steps, cuz’ I’m feeling exhausted and wet,
And now that I’m slouching, because I’m just so dang “big”,
I notice my stomach is gigantic, and I resemble a pig!

I just look like crap, and realize that I’m fat and obese,
From all of my bulking, from all of the burgers and grease,
And as I walk by a mirror, I notice for the very first time,
That I got three chins, and what I’ve done to my body is a crime!

I started my program, looking small, weak and flabby,
But now I look worse, just plain fat and unhealthy,
From all of the food, that I thought wood help me look swole,
But now that I see me – was fat gain my goal?!

I only thought about bulking, no matter what,
And I guess I succeeded – in building a gut,
And now that I’ve finished, I must say I confess,
I look just like shit, cuz’ my body is a mess!

I took their advice, during this past holiday season,
And ate extra calories, for no obvious reason,
And because I thought “bulking”, I say only one thing,
I can’t take my shirt off, come Summer or Spring!

I’m now a fatty, who prides himself in how much he could eat,
And use psychological rationalization, to indulge in my treats,
There’s only one thing left, now that my body looks sour,
I’ll just become a powerlifter – cuz’ I got zero dietary willpower!